WRAP: Skeleton sliders inside top 20
24 February 2014
SKELETON: Australia’s Skeleton team at the Sochi 2014 Olympics showed they can match it with the world’s best sliders, with consistent top 20 finishes.
Making a remarkable comeback from serious injury to make his Olympic debut, Australian John Farrow finished 17th in the men’s event.
Three years ago, two days out from beginning his first World Cup season, Farrow injured his leg in sprint training, damaging the leg so severely he couldn’t walk and his left foot was paralysed.
After intense rehabilitation to get to the Games, Farrow produced the best result by an Australian male at the Olympics. After finishing strongly, Farrow was already looking to PyeongChang in 2018.
“I’m really happy with that, I’m over the moon and it sets me up for another four years,” he said.
It was a memorable Games for the host nation in men’s Skeleton, claiming first, fifth and sixth courtesy of Alexander Tretiakov, Sergei Chudinov and Nikita Tregybov, respectively.
In front of a roaring patriotic crowd, 28-year-old Tretiakov slid home to claim gold for Russia in a time of 3 minutes, 44.29 seconds.
Latvian brothers Martins Dukurs and Thomas Dukurs missed out on sharing the podium together, finishing second and fourth, respectively. American Matthew Anotoine slide to bronze, while compatriot John Daley slipped out of the medal contention after making a mistake at the start of the fourth run, dropping back to twelfth position.
Farrow’s teammates, Michelle Steele and Lucy Chaffer, also finished in the top 20. They had slow starts to the competition but both finished strongly.
Steele finished in =14th place, 3.39 seconds off gold medallist, Elizabeth Yarnold of Great Britain.
Making her Olympic debut, teammate Chaffer finished in 17th place, a further 0.36 seconds behind Steele. Chaffer recovered from a poor first run but she improved throughout the competition with her second and fourth runs being the ninth and tenth quickest to show what she is capable of.
25-year-old Yarnold completed her four runs in 3 minutes, 52.89 seconds and also set a new track record in her third run in Sochi.
Silver medallist American Noelle Pikus-Pace finished 0.97 seconds off Yarnold, with Russia’s Elena Nikitina taking bronze.
Yarnold’s victory continues Great Britain’s domination of the event, retaining the Olympic title won by Amy Williams at the Vancouver Games in 2010.
Heading into competition Steele had been hoping for a top 10 finish, but the depth of competition prevented her from cracking the upper echelon.
A groundbreaker in the sport, 27-year-old Steele was the first Australian to win a World Cup Skeleton medal, with a silver in Nagano in 2007. Her 2006 appearance in Torino was also the first time an Aussie woman had competed in a Winter Olympics.
Both Steele and Chaffer are yet to decide whether they’ll continue in Skeleton, with both taking some time out after the Sochi Games.
After the event Steele said Sochi may have been her last Olympics.
“This could be my last two slides. I’ve been in the sport for ten years, I’ll see,” she said.
After her last run at the Sochi Games, Chaffer was unsure what the future held.
“I’m going to enjoy the rest of the Olympics. Go home, enjoy the sunshine, see my family... the ones that aren’t here, and reassess things. So what my sliding future holds I don’t know, I don’t know what my career future holds. We’ll have to see. We’ll go from there,” the 30-year-old said.
The Skeleton competition showed the strong camaraderie between the competitors, who travel at speeds of up to 140 km/h on the icy track. Both the men’s and women’s events at the Sanki Sliding Centre highlighted the depth of the Skeleton competition at the Sochi Winter Olympics.